After the ALARMING solar flare eruption, NOAA issues solar storm warning for Earth

After an M8.6-class solar flare erupted on the Sun on February 28, NOAA has issued a solar storm warning for the Earth. Check details.

| Updated on: Mar 02 2023, 12:10 IST
Think you know our Sun? Check out THESE 5 stunning facts
1/5 The Sun is the largest object in our solar system and is a 4.5 billion-year-old star – a hot glowing ball of hydrogen and helium at the center of the solar system. It is about 93 million miles (150 million kilometers) from Earth, and without its energy, life as we know it could not exist here on our home planet. (Pixabay)
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2/5 The Sun’s volume would need 1.3 million Earths to fill it. Its gravity holds the solar system together, keeping everything from the biggest planets to the smallest bits of debris in orbit around it. The hottest part of the Sun is its core, where temperatures top 27 million degrees Fahrenheit (15 million degrees Celsius). The Sun’s activity, from its powerful eruptions to the steady stream of charged particles it sends out, influences the nature of space throughout the solar system. (NASA)
3/5 According to NASA, measuring a “day” on the Sun is complicated because of the way it rotates. It doesn't spin as a single, solid ball. This is because the Sun’s surface isn't solid like Earth's. Instead, the Sun is made of super-hot, electrically charged gas called plasma. This plasma rotates at different speeds on different parts of the Sun. At its equator, the Sun completes one rotation in 25 Earth days. At its poles, the Sun rotates once on its axis every 36 Earth days. (NASA)
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4/5 Above the Sun’s surface are its thin chromosphere and the huge corona (crown). This is where we see features such as solar prominences, flares, and coronal mass ejections. The latter two are giant explosions of energy and particles that can reach Earth. (Pixabay)
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5/5 The Sun doesn’t have moons, but eight planets orbit it, at least five dwarf planets, tens of thousands of asteroids, and perhaps three trillion comets and icy bodies. Also, several spacecraft are currently investigating the Sun including Parker Solar Probe, STEREO, Solar Orbiter, SOHO, Solar Dynamics Observatory, Hinode, IRIS, and Wind. (Pixabay)
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Know all about the solar storm soon to strike the Earth. (Pixabay)

Yesterday, the entirety of South America and large parts of Mexico, USA and Canada suffered shortwave radio blackouts after a powerful M8.6-class solar flare erupted on the unstable AR3234 sunspot. The flare which was just percentage points behind an X-class eruption came unexpectedly and affected drone pilots and ham radio operators in the region. However, the danger is not over. The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) has now issued a warning over a possible solar storm that is due to strike the Earth in two day's time, on March 4.

The incident was reported by which noted on its website, “Yesterday's M8.6-class solar flare produced a faint CME. NOAA analysts have determined that it might deliver a glancing blow to Earth's magnetic field on March 4th. Minor G1-class solar storms are possible on that date”. While the solar storm itself is expected to be minor, the presence of fast-moving solar winds can complicate the situation.

Solar storm expected to hit the Earth over the weekend

Essentially, there are two factors that govern whether a solar storm will strike the Earth or not and how intense it could be. The first is the amount of solar material, also known as coronal mass ejection (CME), released during a solar flare eruption. The higher the amount of CME that strikes the Earth, the more intense solar storms it will create. In this case, it is expected that the CME cloud will only deliver glancing blows to the Earth which means that the full brunt of the solar storm will not be experienced by our planet.

However, there is a secondary factor which is the presence of any secondary influence that either increases the speed of these solar particles striking the Earth or creates an opening in the magnetosphere to allow more particles seeping into the upper atmosphere. Solar winds play a crucial role in both of them. So, the presence of solar winds mean that even if the projected solar storm based on CME concentration is minor, the solar flare can increase the intensity manyfolds. We will have to wait and see how dangerous this solar storm can be for our planet.

How NOAA monitors the Sun

NOAA monitors the solar storms and Sun's behavior using its DSCOVR satellite which became operational in 2016. The recovered data is then run through the Space Weather Prediction Center and the final analysis is prepared. The different measurements are done on temperature, speed, density, degree of orientation and frequency of the solar particles.

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First Published Date: 02 Mar, 12:09 IST